US & Canada

Michael White death: Rocky Horror and Python producer dies

Michael White's productions include "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"
Image caption Michael White's productions include "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

The British producer behind The Rocky Horror Picture Show film and Monty Python and the Holy Grail has died.

Michael White, who was 80, died of heart failure in California, his former girlfriend Lyndall Hobbs said.

He had credits spanning decades in theatre, film and television.

"Michael had an appetite for life that was unmatched in my opinion," said Ms Hobbs. "A unique man who put on hundreds of shows and truly was a theatrical pioneer."

Hobbs, herself a film-maker, added White's former wife and his son had cared for him as his health had "deteriorated rapidly".

The Society of London Theatre has announced venues across the West End will dim their lights for two minutes on Wednesday evening in memory of White.

His theatre production credits included the West End premieres of The Rocky Horror Show, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and A Chorus Line.

Born in Glasgow, White began his theatrical career in London's West End producing plays such as Annie and The Rocky Horror Show.

He later went on to produce films, including The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1978, and those which have achieved cult status such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is still regularly screened in cinemas.

"It would seem he died of heart failure having been told about eight weeks ago that he needed open heart surgery but he was too weak for surgery," said Ms Hobbs.

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Image caption The original cast of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" in 1975

Monty Python star Eric Idle tweeted a tribute to White, whose nickname was "Chalky": "R.I.P. Michael White, producer of Holy Grail. Rocky Horror, Pass The Butler etc. Chalky was one of a kind and will be missed."

Theatre and film producer Robert Fox, who worked with White and was also a close friend, wrote a tribute article for Vogue magazine: "To say that he enjoyed life would be to vastly underestimate his achievement," said Fox.

"When I worked for him, if I ever cautioned him with, 'Are you sure that's a good idea? he'd reply, 'Don't be such a nervous Nelly'.

"Well, he followed his own advice and sometimes it cost him dearly when there were many empty seats, but there was triumph in equal measure and to paraphrase Kipling - he treated those two impostors (triumph and disaster) just the same."

White was also the producer of TV series, a career he recounted in his autobiography Empty Seats, and among his most notable credits was his championing of the Comic Strip Presents... short film series, starring Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

Most recently he was the subject of a 2013 documentary The Last Impresario, which followed his life mingling among celebrities and dubbed him "the most famous man you've never heard of".

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Image caption Michael White (r) poses with Nigel Planer at the Laurence Olivier Awards in 2014

The film was directed by Gracie Otto, who also paid tribute to White: "Love you so much... a true inspiration and generous soul. Changed my life forever. RIP dear dear Michael White," she tweeted.

The Last Impresario charted White's life amongst celebrity royalty and included interviews with friends and colleagues such as the actor John Cleese and model Kate Moss.

Moss also presented him with a lifetime achievement honour at the Olivier Awards in 2015.